A self-styled “think tank” calling itself the “Yankee Institute for Public Policy”” grabbed headlines recently with a report claiming Connecticut state employees are much better compensated than private-sector employees doing similar work.   The report was dead false.  The question is why?

To compile its report, the Institute turned to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative “think tank,” founded in 1938, that became a foil to the New Deal. This is the group that, according to the Guardian Newspaper, more recently offered “scientists and economists $10,000 each” to issue papers casting doubt on global warming.

So what is this Yankee Institute and what is its game? A gathering of the nation’s best economic minds putting their thoughts together for the public good? Hardly.

With “credentials” like right-wing talk-show host, Republican political operative, and journalist, its staff members are more like a spin mill’s than a bona fide research organization’s.

Research reveals that the “institute” is just that: a right-wing propaganda machine that’s part of the $83 million “State Policy Network” and connected to the Koch Brothers and other billionaires of the far right.

It was right-wing businessmen like the Kochs that caused Connecticut’s unemployment and tax problems. During the Reagan/Bush years, in search of a faster buck, they dismantled and off-shored the bulk of our industrial infrastructure in what was the largest such move in the history of the world.

All across the country, deindustrialization left high unemployment, shattered lives and shredded tax bases in its wake. It turned Connecticut’s I-95 corridor, once heralded as the “Ribbon of Hope,” into the “Ribbon of Despair.” Industrial cities like Bridgeport, which were manufacturing powerhouses, were left with the crumbling shells of empty factories.

Like most industrial states, Connecticut never fully recovered.

More recently, the same crew played fast and loose with the nation’s financial system and brought on a Wall Street meltdown and the Great Recession of 2008. Now, with the economy coming back, they have been harvesting the fruits of recovery for themselves while the middle class has been shrinking to its lowest level in four decades.

These special interests have since declared war on state employees. Through spin mills like the Yankee Institute, they’ll tell you that we’re overpaid and don’t deserve it and have rich benefits that we don’t deserve. They’ll try to con you into supporting their scheme to take money out of our pockets and put it into theirs.

Let them get away with it and your pockets will be next. That’s because, for them, the easy profits have gone overseas. The next mother lode is in your paycheck. Their profits will come from what they can take from you.

Their strategy? Slash your wages and pocket the difference.  Cut your benefits and pocket the savings. Kill your Social Security and pocket the 6.2 percent match. Kill your Medicare and pocket the 1.75 percent match. Crush your union and collective bargaining rights and you’re at their mercy for pay and benefits.

They can’t do this without pulling the wool over your eyes. So they use their money, their propaganda machines, their political stooges and their dupes to drive a wedge between us. Their scheme is simple; divide public workers from private, union workers from non-union, small business owners from working families, Black from white, native from immigrant, and men from women.

Through “think tanks” like the Yankee Institute, they offer false economic panaceas that do far more harm than good. Don’t fall for them.

A former newspaper reporter and editor, Anson Smith recently retired from Housatonic Community College, where he handled publicity for the college and taught courses in history and journalism. A labor historian, his work on anti-labor propaganda has been published in Connecticut History Review.

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